First, with regard to abortion, abortion is based on philosophical precepts which makes it a human issue not simply a woman’s issue, though no one can deny women have a significant vested interest in the discussion and debate. However, their perspective is not the only one of merit, nor the only one to consider. There are many perspectives which are gender-neutral and should be asked by everyone regardless of their gender. It is a human right’s issue, even more than it is a “woman’s issue”. In fact if we relegated certain philosophical precepts to one gender or another, I can’t help but feel that that would limit many discussions negatively for women. If we want women to truly be equal, then we cannot relegate discussions to one gender or another. That flies in the face of true equality which, if I understand correctly, is the end goal of feminism. It also flies in the face of philosophic values.
I don’t feel that the decision about abortion can be made from a gender perspective. It should be made objectively from ethics, and from logic. It is a decision that affects many peoples lives at an intimate level. Like so many other fundamental ethics and issues, it has become embroiled within political laws and policies. However, the way it’s supposed to work is that these laws and policies are based on axioms and truths which are logically extrapolated in such a way that justice is administered Ethically with regard to all of humanity.
At the end of the day no one is pro-abortion. We also should not be pro-murder or really be pro-death penalty but that’s another discussion for another day.
I, too, feel that the decision to have an abortion or not to have an abortion is ultimately up to the mother. However the mother’s decision to have an abortion or not to have an abortion still must fall within ethical limitations that are not simply based on possession of the uterus. As with all ethics and systems of justice, our bodies, while our own, also belong to society as a whole. This is part of the reason why we don’t condone eugenics or euthanasia. It is part of the reason why suicide is looked down upon and is actually illegal in many cases. This responsibility to society argument is used by antiabortion advocates to their advantage: we have no idea if we are killing a potential Einstein or Hitler. We are robbing humanity of future potential contributors and consumers.
With all of that in mind I shall attempt to further outline my position on abortion.
Axiom number one: killing human beings is wrong. You must attempt to protect human life as best as possible and maintain appropriate standards of living. Now Peter Singer disagrees: “The argument that a fetus is not alive] is a resort to a convenient fiction that turns an evidently living being into one that legally is not alive. Instead of accepting such fictions, we should recognize that the fact that a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being’s life.” I am not going to argue this much here. I am going to assume it from a relative sociological and Kantian categorical imperative perspective.
Axiom number two: being human is a definite state of qualitative being in a quantitative system. It describes the nature and characteristics of a living entity.
Axiom number three: cells, fetuses, and infants are all alive. They posses a life force. In the same way, plants and animals and human beings are also alive.
Axiom number four: there is a difference between the value of life of a cell, embryo, fetus, human being, animal, or plant.
Proposition number one: killing fetuses is not wrong because they are not yet human.
Scientifically speaking, in terms of human development, babies are almost fully developed at the end of the second trimester. They have all of their basic body parts, in proper proportion, and are properly functioning. They are small versions of fully developed babies that with emerge at the end of nine months. They have the capacity of limited thought and feelings. They act and interact with her environment, and learn to limited degree. They possess all of the necessary characteristics to be considered human even if they are at the most limited and fundamental degree. Now those last three months are essential for growth and development, Which is a matter of qualitative development. The quantitative growth of the various elements has already been done all of the categories have been implemented it’s a matter of raising those levels To the acceptable threshold for birth.
What are the basic elements of being human? What determines humanity? A car is a car due to certain physical and essence related characteristics. Cars are designed for transportation. They have certain physical characteristics, within an almost infinite scope variations, but are still directly related to each other. Their purpose is the same, and what they do is the same. how they do it is more or less the same though there is significantly more variation under the hood, so to speak. The essential human characteristics that separate us from animals are essentially a matter of degrees or a quantitative difference, rather than a qualitative difference. There are certain qualities that humans possess, that animals do not as well. This blend of qualitative and quantitative differences is what makes humans unique from animals.
I will go point by point down the list of the qualities necessary to label a being human. I will take the basic platonic tripartite principle and expound upon it with my own variations and deviances. Of course, I agree with Plato that we should all strive to live our lives by arete and a balance of the various pieces of what it means to be human is the strongest way to realize that goal of excellence.
The first most readily observable component of humanity, is our physical body. Our body is roughly the same as everyone else’s around the world. Like the automobile, there are a range in most of the characteristics. There are variations and permutations. However They are all based off of the same basic design, Within genetic variation.
The next key aspect of humanity is our will. Will determines purpose. With regard to purpose, human beings are purpose creating beings. Animals do not create purpose for themselves. Animals have purpose Bestowed to them by human beings. They have purpose bestowed to them by their function in the natural order and the circle of life. Their purpose is bestowed to them by the food chain. Human beings have no purpose innately, but give themselves purpose. In fact, that could be described as one of the central meanings of life; Discovering And creating your purpose. Purpose is not preordained. It must be created and discovered individually, and socially. And through our discovery of purpose, ideally we would do it anyway that maximizes our arete, Which then leads us to be individually more significant and have a greater positive impact on society. Our will makes us what we are, as a species, And as individuals. Self-determination is the single most important defining characteristic of humanity. No other creature or living being in the world has a force of will like ours. It is our self-determination and force of will that makes our freedom so it innately important, and makes freedom and inalienable human right.
The next crucial aspect of humanity is our mind, and intellectual potential. We are thinking/reasoning beings of great sentience, Rationality, and self-awareness. Some animals possess certain degrees of problem solving abilities and self-awareness especially certain higher orders of mammals. However none of them can compare to even the most intellectually challenged human being, Excluding, of course the most extreme cases of mental retardation and other extreme mental disabilities. Intellect gives our will its primary direction, of course with input from our spirit.
The next aspect of humanity is our soul or our spirits. This is our emotions, our feelings, Our spirituality, our creative right brained center of being. This aspect of ourselves is very physiologically based. It interprets and relates what is going on in our bodies to our minds and is that bridge. Is also the source of it’s own feelings and intuitions. It is every bit as important as the body and the mind and directly influences our force of will and provides The energy thereof. It gives our will it’s force and gravitas. Unfortunately in some less self-discipline people, the spirit/soul is quite flighty and fickle.
However, and this is merely a tangent, I found that listening to whatever comes out of the right brained spirit and saying yes to it once the right brain has been preprogramed with self-discipline, allows for the greatest creative potential. But I have written extensively on that topic 9 months or a year ago, and will not go into that further here.
Another important aspect of Our essential humanity is our ability to relate to other human beings and to the world around us any significant social fashion. Our empathy is a key part of this. As humans, we are social beings. This is an innate part of our very fabric of being. Our communication skills,the thousands of languages we’ve developed, reading and writing, nonverbal communication, and many many other forms of communication are all outpourings of this essential human nature.
One final point that may or may not be a essential characteristic of humanity is curiosity. Curiosity, I feel, accounts for our intellectual exploration, our social exploration, our Religiosity and curiosity about the mysteries of the universe including the nature of God and other philosophical pursuits. Is certainly tied into our quest for meaning and purpose, and tied into our process of achieving Arete. Curiosity certainly seems to be directly tied into the other major various parts of what it means to be human, so let me, for the sake of this argument, make curiosity a part of the nature of essential humanity.
At this point, I feel that I have fairly comprehensively touched on or discussed at length the key components to humanity. To recap: mind, soul/spirit, will, body, curiosity, Self-awareness, social interaction, empathy, purpose, and creativity. The varying degrees and preferences inherent in these categories composes our individual personality. I think that this sums up what it means to be human rather nicely.
Then what must be done, is to ascertain at what point a developing fetus has all of these qualities. According to my reading into the topic of human development, my best understanding is that a fetus at the end of the second trimester or approximately 24 or so weeks has fully developed It’s body, and it’s mind is beginning to work at a pre-intelligence level laying the basolateral pathways and beginning the writing on that Tabula Rasa, a glimmer, if you will, of what is to come. At this point, it is clearly evident that the fetus has feelings. It has moods.
It is exploring the womb around it, as its curiosity is beginning to wake up. It is beginning to learn. With learning comes Creativity. It explores its own body. It attempts self-determination and exercising its will as evidenced by kicking and other sorts of purposed intentional emotions and actions. Is attempting to maintain and create some level of control of its immediate surroundings. It interacts with its mother. It knows her voice. You can even learn it’s father’s voice. And respond to both of them. This is the most basic and base form of social interaction.
At the end of the second trimester, it is clear to me that this being has developed into a fully human being. It has all of the essential characteristics and qualities at some level. Before this point, it is lacking at least one or all of these at any real significant level.
Based on this definition and these understandings in my research, I submit to you that before the second trimester when the fetus lacks mind body Spirit will creativity curiosity self-awareness etc., that neither the embryo nor fetus is human. Instead it is merely a potential human. Forgive me for being biologically crass, But would you argue that male sperm is a human life or lives worth protecting? Each sperm has the genetic information of half of a Potential human being. If sperm is Human then the male body naturally aborts hundreds of thousands of babies every 72 hours, Or much more frequently the case of masturbation. The female body aborts an egg a month during her period. Are both of these natural processes murder? Are they rightly even called an abortion? Probably not. However some people do make the argument that every sperm is sacred or every Egg is sacred. The egg and sperm are each only half of a potential human being. Next, once the egg and sperm combine, the woman’s body has a high likelihood of rejecting this new mass of cells in the first trimester. Especially in the first nine weeks, so much can and often does go wrong. There is a high possibility of miscarriage. At this point in the first several hours and several days or weeks the cells are undergoing rapid mitosis and splitting apart and forming new cells. For the longest time, your new fetus is nothing more than a mass of cells. Eventually those cells begin to differentiate, And begin to look like potential future body parts. However most of them do not begin to function for a while. Slowly but surely the little embryo gradually becomes more humanlike or humanoid in it’s physiological development. However it is still a long way off from truly becoming a human being. Eventually, it’s heart will start beating. Eventually it will grow fingers and fingernails. Eventually knees will develop. Eventually photosensitive dark spots morph into the most advanced form of camera world has ever seen known as the human eye, complete with eyelashes and eyelids. However in the first trimester in the first half of the second trimester, the embryo is a long way off from having the rest of the human natures and capacities that we previously discussed. Toward the end of the second trimester, the fetus Begins to acquire and develop these essential characteristics in rapid succession.
For ethics sake, it would seem to me that abortion would be unthinkable in the final trimester. And for proprieties’ sake, in order to protect what may or may not be a human life, I would argue that two or three weeks before the end of the second trimester would be a good cutoff date for abortions. No need to cut it close.
In summary of proposition 1, we should not kill human beings, and I would argue that until the end of the second trimester fetuses are merely potential human beings, not actually Human. Singer’s agruments Regarding infanticide and euthanasia and Down syndrome etc, are indicative of the utilitarian approach. I disagree vehemently with utilitarianism. I am not arguing for the destruction of a lesser human being. I am not arguing that we kill the inconvenient. I am arguing that there is an ethical time to have an abortion. I’m arguing that anything after that time period Is ethically wrong, whether or not they have Down Syndrome, or are senile adults who have outlived their usefulness. We don’t kill stupid people, or people with asthma, or less than perfect teeth or vision. Humans are ends in and of themselves, and there is no possible way to consistently apply any system of valuation to everything, which utilitarianism attempts to do.
Now, I would argue that there should be a good reason to abort the fetus. I would not encourage the wholesale abortion of all fetuses everywhere. I would not argue that abortion is consequence free. No one is pro-abortion at the end of the day. I am in support of the option to have an abortion, though I hope no one ever needs to take advantage of it. In addition, I am perfectly happy to allow the woman to decide for herself what reason is appropriate or inappropriate to have an abortion before the second trimester. That choice should not be legislated, nor controlled by any one other than the woman, whose body is being affected. However, the Father should certainly be involved in the conversation. If men are to be required to pay child support, if the child is brought to term, or if they are to be expected to be a part of the child’s life, or have other responsibilities regarding the child, than the man should certainly “have a say”, and be an integral part of the decision process. No Taxation without Representation. However, once the development has reached the end of the second trimester, I feel that the choice is no longer the mother’s or father’s. The old arguments of a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body fall flat in the face of the consideration of a second human being in the primary equation. This is a defenseless human being who cannot fight for itself, and must be protected by others.
This is similar to all other forms of human social interaction: you may do with yourself, or to yourself almost anything that you want, within reason, provided that it does not hurt someone or something else in society. This is a fancy way to say the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I can go for a drive, but I cannot run somebody else off the road with my car. Even in cases of extreme emergency.
Now, Ethically I am willing to allow for a Third trimester abortion in the extremely rare and extreme case of danger to the mothers life. I base this on the nature of self-defense ethic and law. You have the right, though not the obligation, to defend yourself and your life from other human attackers who either intentionally or unintentionally seek to do you harm. Now, the noble thing to do is self-sacrifice. Men have been nobly sacrificing themselves for others on the battlefield as long as there have been battles and men. Fathers have sacrificed themselves for their wife and children as long as there have been patriarchal based families. However, no one has the obligation to sacrifice themselves. It is entirely voluntary, and is contingent on the personal values of the decision-maker. Or in other words, the woman’s choice. And she should not feel pressured to decide one way or the other, with her life in the balance. It is entirely up to her and solely her prerogative.
In the case of rape, she has six months to make a decision whether or not she’s going to carry the pregnancy to term. That is not much time for social, emotional, psychological, or physiological healing, but that is all the time that there is. There is a deadline. Simply because evil has been done is not a license to do more evil.
Perhaps I engage a bit in the slippery slope of Peter Singer, but as with most issues, There is rarely a simple black and white solution to a complex problem. And the slippery slope merely means that the answer is a matter of degrees rather than a hard universal or categorical constant. Unfortunately, life rarely is that black & white, or cut & dried.
There, I have rushed in where fools and angels fear to tread.